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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israelis say Obama-Kerry drafted it on: December 26, 2016, 08:38:47 PM
http://hotair.com/archives/2016/12/26/israeli-spokesman-we-have-ironclad-information-that-the-obama-pushed-this-un-resolution/
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Beach (LA Times) on OTMs on: December 26, 2016, 11:57:44 AM
http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-fg-immigration-trek-america-bangladesh/
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Caroline Glick interview on the UNSC Resolution on: December 26, 2016, 11:46:53 AM
http://thelandofisrael.com/caroline-glick-unsc-resolution-is-a-betrayal/
204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Haaretz supports Obama and the resolution on: December 25, 2016, 06:31:19 PM
second post

http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.761269
205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Trump Doctrine: a work in progress on: December 25, 2016, 04:04:57 PM

The Trump Doctrine: A Work in Progress
Geopolitical Weekly
December 20, 2016 | 08:02 GMT Print
Text Size
Commentators among the Washington establishment have been quick to dismiss President-elect Donald Trump's foreign policy moves outright over the past few weeks, but his actions merit deeper exploration than knee-jerk disbelief. (JEFF SWENSON/Getty Images)

By Reva Goujon

The world is in a "frenzy of study," Henry Kissinger said in a recent interview. At home and abroad, strategists and pundits are trying to piece together a blueprint of American foreign policy under U.S. President-elect Donald Trump from a stream of tweets, some campaign slogans, a few eye-catching Cabinet picks, meetings at Trump Tower, and a pingpong match already underway with Beijing. Highbrow intellectualism can be a handicap in this exercise. Commentators among the Washington establishment have been quick to dismiss Trump's foreign policy moves outright as erratic and self-serving over the past few weeks. In an op-ed entitled "Trump Failed His First Foreign Policy Test," for instance, columnist David Ignatius admonished the president-elect for the "hot mess" his phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen precipitated. Trump makes people uncomfortable. It's what he does best, in fact. But how this quality applies to foreign policy is a question that merits deeper exploration than knee-jerk displays of stricken disbelief. After all, as Kissinger noted in his Dec. 18 interview, "a president has to have some core convictions."

So what are Trump's? From what we can discern so far from his upbringing, the trajectory of his career and the profiles of those who have infiltrated his inner circle, Trump prizes business acumen and a "killer" instinct for managing affairs. He has enough corporate firepower in his Cabinet to fill the next Forbes' list. By nominating ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, he has demonstrated his belief that tough deal-making — identifying sources of leverage and showing a willingness to use them — is the secret to running a country and presiding over the international system. Trump does not fear nationalism; he sees it as the natural and rightful path for every state, the United States included, to pursue in protecting its interests. He also seems to have internalized the idea that the United States is losing its competitiveness and that internationalist foreign policy is to blame. Finally, Trump apparently believes that U.S. foreign policy has become too predictable and overwrought with diplomatic formality. Better to say it like it is and call out institutions and conventions that have outlived their usefulness.

This, at least, is the worldview at a distance. When we come in for a closer look, however, some of the cracks come into clearer view. In 1953, General Motors Co. CEO Charles Wilson was asked in his Senate confirmation hearing to become President Dwight D. Eisenhower's secretary of defense whether his decisions in office could end up harming his company. He answered that they might but that he could not imagine such a scenario since "for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa." In fact, what is good for a business will not always be congruent with the national interest. A company is answerable to its shareholders, just as a president is answerable to some degree to Congress and the American public. But the mission of the CEO — maximizing value for its shareholders — entails different considerations when pursuing the raison d'etat and preserving a social contract with a nation's citizenry. The latter entwines economic arguments with the social and moral obligations of the state, a nebulous territory where inefficiencies, compromise and the social consequences of massive deregulation are unavoidable.

Driving a Hard Bargain

Trump sees it as his mission to repair the social contract with the American public by bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States. This will be easier said than done, however. Across-the-board tariffs against big trading partners, such as China, might have worked 20 years ago but not in today's globalized environment. Raising import tariffs now could cause the price of goods no longer produced domestically to skyrocket and disrupt international supply chains, turning many U.S. businesses into pawns in various overseas trade wars.

It could be argued that China depends more heavily on exports than the United States does and cannot afford to risk its vital supply lines in a major confrontation with the world's most powerful navy. This, in effect, leaves Washington with the upper hand in its trade tussle with Beijing. In the search for additional leverage against China, Trump has shown a willingness to expire Washington's "one-China" policy, a holdover from the Cold War that dodged the question of Taiwan's statehood to drive a wedge between the Soviets and Communist China.

But that's just one side of the equation. China has twin imperatives to maintain access to export markets and raw materials and to prevent an outside power from blockading its northern coast through the Taiwan Strait. If Trump's policies interfere with these objectives, Beijing has levers it can pull to retaliate. Should the United States play the Taiwan card to try to exact economic concessions from Beijing, China can strong-arm U.S. companies operating on the mainland. Beijing can also use its enormous economic clout over Taiwan — whose semiconductor manufacturing and assembly industry is tightly intertwined with the mainland — to threaten a disruption to the global tech supply chain. Furthermore, as its recent seizure of an unmanned U.S. naval drone illustrated, China can flex its maritime muscle, albeit cautiously, to raise the stakes in a trade dispute with the United States. Though Trump would rather leave it to regional stakeholders such as Japan and South Korea to balance against Beijing, his compulsion to correct the United States' trade relationship with China will draw him into stormy security waters in the Pacific.

A Different Kind of Negotiation

Just as Trump regards the one-China policy as a relic of the Cold War worth revisiting, he intends to update Washington's relationship with Moscow. As Trump sees it, the United States is not fighting an existential battle with Russia deserving of Cold War-era collective security commitments. Russia is no longer preoccupied with forging an empire under an ideology that is anathema to Western capitalism. Instead, Moscow is focused on the more basic task of constructing a national identity and insulating the state and its borderlands from Western encroachment in anticipation of greater domestic turmoil to come. As Kissinger recently put it, Russian President Vladimir Putin is like one of Fyodor Dostoevsky's characters, for whom "the question of Russian identity is very crucial because, as a result of the collapse of communism, Russia has lost about 300 years of its history." If Russia were to try to build a state by expanding its already sprawling territory, nationalism would not be enough to hold it together. Consequently, Putin is trying to defend the areas surrounding his country and compel the West to recognize and respect that sphere of influence.

Taking a less alarmist view of Russia's intentions, the Trump administration sees an opening to develop a new understanding with Moscow, one that could put to rest the question of Crimea and perhaps recognize Russia's influence over eastern Ukraine. Syria, a peripheral issue for both Moscow and Washington, would be recognized as such. Since sanctions are a drag on business and Russia sorely needs investment, Trump could ease the measures to get a dialogue moving on what an understanding would look like without sacrificing the U.S. military presence along Europe's eastern flank.

Should Tillerson be confirmed as secretary of state, Trump would rely on his knowledge of Kremlin personalities and their internal feuds to advance the negotiations. After all, if a company needs good inroads with the Kremlin to do business in Russia, the same must go for a government that wants to negotiate with Moscow. But negotiating access to Russia's Arctic shelf on ExxonMobil's behalf is not the same as conducting talks centered on Russia (or China, for that matter) trying to get the West out of its backyard.

Russia has no illusion that a shuffle of personalities in the White House will reverse U.S. policy and cede the former Soviet sphere to it. The United States will still be compelled to keep a check on Russia's moves in Europe just as Moscow will maintain its levers across several theaters, from cybersecurity to arms control to proxy wars in the Middle East. Though Trump's administration may change the tone of the conversation and broach the topic of tactical concessions, Russia will still be driven by an unrelenting distrust of Western intentions that will keep defenses up on both sides. Nonetheless, the very notion of a private bargain developing between Washington and Moscow will inject uncertainty into long-standing collective security arrangements as the European Continent is undergoing another Machiavellian moment in history where the assertion of state interests is breaking the bonds of its flawed union.

An Unlikely Precedent

Despite the changes that Trump will doubtless bring to the presidency, his foreign policy is not as unprecedented as the world's pundits may claim. The bridge between President Barack Obama's foreign policy doctrine and the one evolving under Trump is not entirely sturdy, but the foundation is there. As president, Obama was a realist. He considered it his mission to rebalance the United States after the country had overextended itself fighting wars in the Islamic world. His resistance to expanding U.S. military commitments in the Middle East was deeply ingrained; as he said in an interview in The Atlantic, "it is literally in my DNA to be suspicious of tribalism." He held strong convictions that the United States would once again be trampled under a sectarian horde in the Middle East if it tried to extend its ambitions beyond the more immediate and visible threat of the Islamic State. He also pressured even close U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom to pay their fair share in security commitments because, as he put it, "free riders aggravate me." Obama was a follower of 20th-century American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who held a rather Hobbesian view of the world as a struggle among self-interested groups. (It was Niebuhr who wrote, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.") The current president built a foreign policy on extreme restraint while addressing his own set of geopolitical anachronisms: the United States' relationships with Iran and Cuba.

But Obama, unlike Trump, applied an internationalist lens to his realist views. He wanted his allies to pay their share but was resolute in keeping the U.S. security umbrella over their heads. He viewed foreign trade as a means to build alliances and contain conflicts. Still, protectionism was already well underway during Obama's tenure. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the United States has led G-20 countries in carrying out discriminatory trade measures on selective industries (particularly metals), according to a report by Global Trade Alert. At the same time, Obama saw that the world was changing with technology and that old jobs would give way to advances in manufacturing. He preferred to think in longer horizons, at times to his own detriment: For Obama, the long-term impact of climate change was existential compared with the short-term threat posed by the Islamic State.

By contrast, Trump's realism is steeped in nationalism and tends to be more myopic in assessing threats. His solution to displaced American labor is to punish foreign trade partners rather than to retool the workforce to adapt to demographic and technological change. Under Trump, climate change concerns will take a back seat to the more immediate desires to ease regulations on business. Rather than play a restrained globalist role, the next president would sooner respect countries' rights to defend themselves, irrespective of the long-term consequences of undermining time-honored collective security arrangements. Though a departure from an already defunct two-state solution in Israel's favor acknowledges the current reality, it also risks further destabilizing the balance of power in the Middle East as Turkey continues its resurgence and multiple civil wars rage on. A short-term escalation with Beijing over trade and Taiwan could cost Washington a much bigger strategic discussion over China's attempts to achieve parity with the United States in numerous spheres, from cyberspace to the seas.

Keeping the World on Its Toes

Perhaps the greatest difference between the Obama and Trump foreign policies lies in what may be Trump's biggest virtue: his unpredictability. Obama has been criticized as overly cautious in his foreign policy and thus too much of a known entity for U.S. adversaries. Trump, on the other hand, gives the impression that he is willing to throw caution to the wind and rely on instinct in shaping foreign policy. This matters immensely for U.S. allies and adversaries alike that have to be kept on their toes in developing their long-term strategy while avoiding the unexpected with the world's superpower.

Regardless of who occupies the presidency, the United States' strong geopolitical foundation gives it options. As opposed to more vulnerable countries in less forgiving locales, the United States, buffered as it is by two vast oceans, can debate the merits of isolationism and intervention. George Kennan, a diplomat during the Cold War era, may have captured the immense power of the country's unpredictability best:

    "[American democracy is like] one of those prehistoric monsters with a body as long as this room and a brain the size of a pin: He lives there in his comfortable primeval mud and pays little attention to his environment; he is slow to wrath — in fact, you practically have to whack his tail off to make him aware that his interests are being disturbed; but, once he grasps this, he lays about him with such blind determination that he not only destroys his adversary but largely wrecks his native habitat."

Aloofness in international affairs is a geopolitical luxury, but it cannot be taken for granted. That may be the basis for the Trump doctrine.
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Even before the Anti-Israel Resolution, Trump not a UN fan on: December 25, 2016, 04:00:16 PM


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPDB3sYRWJI
207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: 25 years after fall of Soviet Union on: December 25, 2016, 03:53:59 PM

From Red to Silver: The 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Soviet Union
Analysis
December 25, 2016 | 14:01 GMT Print
Text Size
A crowd watches as a statue of KGB founder Felix Dzerzhinsky is lowered in Moscow's Lubyanka Square on Aug. 22, 1991. (ANATOLY SAPRONENKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Analysis

Russian President Vladimir Putin once remarked that anyone who "does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart," while anyone who "wants it back has no brain." For nearly 70 years, the Soviet Union's founding communist ideology held the disparate peoples of its constituent socialist republics together. This ideology, antithetical as it was to the tenets of U.S. capitalism, also set the stage for the decadeslong war of worldviews that the United States and Soviet Union waged against each other through the latter half of the 20th century. The Cold War was a conflict unlike any other in history, an indirect battle between two superpowers in which the rest of the world was caught and maneuvered in for nearly half a century. On Dec. 26, 1991, the United States claimed its victory at last when the Kremlin lowered the iconic red flag that had flown over the Soviet Union. Twenty-five years later, the anniversary of the Soviet Union's collapse invites a reflection on the Cold War, its history and its legacy.

Laying the Foundation

No sooner had World War II ended than the preparations for the Cold War began. Before the ink had even dried on the various peace treaties that concluded the Second World War, the Soviet Union and the United States were already shoring up their positions, and their opposition, in Europe. As the Soviets, battered and nearly broken by the war, consolidated control over the so-called Eastern Bloc states, U.S. President Harry Truman said the United States and its allies needed to "show [them] how to behave." Just 25 years into its existence at the time, the Soviet Union was, after all, a young country. What Truman failed to understand, however, was that Moscow was following a strategy that had served it well for centuries under the Russian Empire, seeking security through expansionism. The United States and Western European nations quickly caught on to the Soviet agenda and formed their containment strategy, which evolved in time from the 1947 Truman Doctrine into the NATO military alliance. Even before the United States and Soviet Union formally drew their line between East and West in Europe, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill pronounced that an "iron curtain ha[d] descended across the Continent."

The two nations spent the ensuing decades embroiled in war. But they managed it without ever fighting each other directly. Instead, the conflict played out in proxy battles across nearly every continent; through trade wars; in the perpetual worries of leaders and citizens in each country over the looming threat of nuclear war; and, of course, in an ideological war.

The Soviet Union's Collapse, 25 Years Later


The Soviet system was built on the socialist concept of equality — legal, social and economic — for all people (beginning with workers), a strategic move by the Union's founders more than a reflection of their convictions. The Communist Party presided over this system, directly overseeing the Soviet Union's political apparatuses, economies, industries, press and societies. In its principles and functions, the Soviet model stood in direct opposition to that of the United States, which espoused self-determination, democracy and capitalism. Neither belief system was as ironclad as its champions in Washington and Moscow perhaps imagined, and some ideals inevitably fell by the wayside, unrealized. War, moreover, makes for strange bedfellows; in the course of their conflict, the United States and Russia each supported states that held diverging — if not contradictory — views. Still, the United States saw the Soviets as godless oppressors of freedom and hope, depriving their citizenry of the right to pursue a better life. The Soviet Union, in turn, considered the United States an imperialist superpower trying to become a global hegemon. The Cold War struggle became a moral contest to determine which worldview was correct.

The Beginning of the End

Toward the end of the 1970s, after proxy conflicts and threats of nuclear war by the dozen, it seemed to Washington that Moscow would prevail. In its estimation of the apparently unstoppable Soviet Union, though, the United States failed to appreciate just how unwieldy an entity it was. Whether governing the Russian Empire or today's Russian Federation, Moscow has faced the same geographic constraints and vulnerabilities throughout its long history. With an economy dependent on oil (and, at times, grain), a highly diverse population and competitors beyond its indefensible borders, each variation of Russia behaves at its strongest and weakest much as its predecessor did. The question, then, was never whether the Soviet Union would fall to the West but rather when it would inevitably collapse under its own weight.

The Soviet Union had already shown signs of faltering. When Nikita Khrushchev assumed the Soviet premiership a few years after longtime leader Josef Stalin's death, he proclaimed a "thaw" throughout the Soviet Union. Khrushchev proceeded to relax censorship somewhat, liberalize political and economic policies, and release political prisoners, all the while decrying Stalin's often brutal tactics. (Even the nearly ubiquitous likenesses of the late leader were destroyed or cached away during Khrushchev's de-Stalinization campaign.) He and the rest of the Party elite knew the Soviet Union would fall apart if it did not evolve. In the decades that followed Khrushchev's shake-up, the country moldered in a cycle of alternating consolidation and liberalization schemes under a string of leaders.


Not With a Bang, but a Whimper

By the 1980s, a perfect storm of political pressures had converged on the Soviet Union. The Soviet political system was atrophying. Three elderly leaders — Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko — died in office in a span of three years as the country fought a bloody and expensive war in Afghanistan. Independent labor unions were sprouting up and gaining political traction across the Eastern Bloc. Meanwhile, oil prices — which made up more than half the country's revenues — plummeted, plunging the mostly hollow Soviet economy into ruin. The Soviet Union was starting to give under the weight of its own problems, a process the United States helped speed along. Washington set off an arms race in the early 1980s with its decision to take an active military position against the Soviets. Between 1980 and 1989, the United States nearly doubled its defense spending, armed mujahideen forces against the Soviets in Afghanistan and flaunted its advanced military capabilities by launching the Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars." The Soviets' efforts to keep up only exacerbated the pressures on their country.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin, addresses on June 12, 1987 the people of West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate, near the Berlin wall. (MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images)

Mikhail Gorbachev tried to stave off the Soviet Union's demise when he came to power in 1985 by bringing a younger generation of leaders to the Kremlin and introducing a series of liberal political and economic reforms. Gorbachev permitted the countries of the Eastern Bloc to establish independent political systems and struck an arms control agreement with the United States. But the measures were not enough to save the Soviet Union; the seeds of dissolution had already been sown. Just a few days shy of its 69th anniversary, the Soviet Union dissolved, ending the Cold War without so much as a bang. Instead, the Kremlin quietly lowered the Soviet flag — the symbol of one of history's most formidable forces. 

In the Wake of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union's collapse was hailed in the West as a victory for the United States and its allies, proof that the American system and its governing ideology were morally, ethically and technically superior. Perhaps the clearest illustration of Western views toward the end of the Cold War was the Berlin Freedom Concert, which commemorated the opening of the border between East and West Germany in 1989. Televised in more than 20 countries around the world, the concert brought orchestral musicians from both sides of the Berlin Wall together to play Beethoven's 9th Symphony. But instead of "ode to joy," the choir sang "ode to freedom." As the West saw it, the end of the German Democratic Republic represented a triumph for freedom, and the demise of the Soviet Union liberated the world from the so-called Evil Empire.

Without an equal adversary, the United States became a global hegemon, just as the Soviets had feared, and the Western institutional, economic and democratic models spread across many parts of the world. But the fall of the Soviet Union yielded some more unexpected outcomes as well. Despite the proxy wars that had raged throughout the Cold War, the U.S.-Soviet dichotomy kept other conflicts in check. In the waning years of the Soviet Union and for decades after its collapse, wars broke out across the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and the former Soviet states. Many of these conflicts tested the United States' hegemony. Furthermore, the end of the Cold War facilitated the rise of regional powers such as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Germany and France — some of which diverge from the United States' worldview. Alternative regional coalitions formed or expanded in the wake of the binary alliance system that the Cold War had built, creating competition for the United States.

Though the Soviet Union's dissolution seemed to suggest that Moscow could never again challenge Washington, Russia eventually regained its footing. Now, the Russian Federation is following the same strategy, however flawed, that its Soviet and imperial forerunners pursued. Much as it did in previous eras, Moscow is once again resorting to authoritarian and expansionist tactics to overcome its inherent fragility — this time under the guise of a democratic system and a market-driven (albeit state-influenced) economy. This resurgence has in some ways echoed the rise of the Soviet Union, but having learned from its mistakes, Moscow will not attempt to match the Soviets' global reach. Nonetheless, Russia's comeback has proved that 25 years after the Cold War's end, a stable world order is as elusive as ever.
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Soviet Union on: December 25, 2016, 03:49:47 PM
second post


From Red to Silver: The 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Soviet Union
Analysis
December 25, 2016 | 14:01 GMT Print
Text Size
A crowd watches as a statue of KGB founder Felix Dzerzhinsky is lowered in Moscow's Lubyanka Square on Aug. 22, 1991. (ANATOLY SAPRONENKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Analysis

Russian President Vladimir Putin once remarked that anyone who "does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart," while anyone who "wants it back has no brain." For nearly 70 years, the Soviet Union's founding communist ideology held the disparate peoples of its constituent socialist republics together. This ideology, antithetical as it was to the tenets of U.S. capitalism, also set the stage for the decadeslong war of worldviews that the United States and Soviet Union waged against each other through the latter half of the 20th century. The Cold War was a conflict unlike any other in history, an indirect battle between two superpowers in which the rest of the world was caught and maneuvered in for nearly half a century. On Dec. 26, 1991, the United States claimed its victory at last when the Kremlin lowered the iconic red flag that had flown over the Soviet Union. Twenty-five years later, the anniversary of the Soviet Union's collapse invites a reflection on the Cold War, its history and its legacy.

Laying the Foundation

No sooner had World War II ended than the preparations for the Cold War began. Before the ink had even dried on the various peace treaties that concluded the Second World War, the Soviet Union and the United States were already shoring up their positions, and their opposition, in Europe. As the Soviets, battered and nearly broken by the war, consolidated control over the so-called Eastern Bloc states, U.S. President Harry Truman said the United States and its allies needed to "show [them] how to behave." Just 25 years into its existence at the time, the Soviet Union was, after all, a young country. What Truman failed to understand, however, was that Moscow was following a strategy that had served it well for centuries under the Russian Empire, seeking security through expansionism. The United States and Western European nations quickly caught on to the Soviet agenda and formed their containment strategy, which evolved in time from the 1947 Truman Doctrine into the NATO military alliance. Even before the United States and Soviet Union formally drew their line between East and West in Europe, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill pronounced that an "iron curtain ha[d] descended across the Continent."

The two nations spent the ensuing decades embroiled in war. But they managed it without ever fighting each other directly. Instead, the conflict played out in proxy battles across nearly every continent; through trade wars; in the perpetual worries of leaders and citizens in each country over the looming threat of nuclear war; and, of course, in an ideological war.

The Soviet Union's Collapse, 25 Years Later


The Soviet system was built on the socialist concept of equality — legal, social and economic — for all people (beginning with workers), a strategic move by the Union's founders more than a reflection of their convictions. The Communist Party presided over this system, directly overseeing the Soviet Union's political apparatuses, economies, industries, press and societies. In its principles and functions, the Soviet model stood in direct opposition to that of the United States, which espoused self-determination, democracy and capitalism. Neither belief system was as ironclad as its champions in Washington and Moscow perhaps imagined, and some ideals inevitably fell by the wayside, unrealized. War, moreover, makes for strange bedfellows; in the course of their conflict, the United States and Russia each supported states that held diverging — if not contradictory — views. Still, the United States saw the Soviets as godless oppressors of freedom and hope, depriving their citizenry of the right to pursue a better life. The Soviet Union, in turn, considered the United States an imperialist superpower trying to become a global hegemon. The Cold War struggle became a moral contest to determine which worldview was correct.
The Beginning of the End

Toward the end of the 1970s, after proxy conflicts and threats of nuclear war by the dozen, it seemed to Washington that Moscow would prevail. In its estimation of the apparently unstoppable Soviet Union, though, the United States failed to appreciate just how unwieldy an entity it was. Whether governing the Russian Empire or today's Russian Federation, Moscow has faced the same geographic constraints and vulnerabilities throughout its long history. With an economy dependent on oil (and, at times, grain), a highly diverse population and competitors beyond its indefensible borders, each variation of Russia behaves at its strongest and weakest much as its predecessor did. The question, then, was never whether the Soviet Union would fall to the West but rather when it would inevitably collapse under its own weight.

The Soviet Union had already shown signs of faltering. When Nikita Khrushchev assumed the Soviet premiership a few years after longtime leader Josef Stalin's death, he proclaimed a "thaw" throughout the Soviet Union. Khrushchev proceeded to relax censorship somewhat, liberalize political and economic policies, and release political prisoners, all the while decrying Stalin's often brutal tactics. (Even the nearly ubiquitous likenesses of the late leader were destroyed or cached away during Khrushchev's de-Stalinization campaign.) He and the rest of the Party elite knew the Soviet Union would fall apart if it did not evolve. In the decades that followed Khrushchev's shake-up, the country moldered in a cycle of alternating consolidation and liberalization schemes under a string of leaders.

Not With a Bang, but a Whimper

By the 1980s, a perfect storm of political pressures had converged on the Soviet Union. The Soviet political system was atrophying. Three elderly leaders — Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko — died in office in a span of three years as the country fought a bloody and expensive war in Afghanistan. Independent labor unions were sprouting up and gaining political traction across the Eastern Bloc. Meanwhile, oil prices — which made up more than half the country's revenues — plummeted, plunging the mostly hollow Soviet economy into ruin. The Soviet Union was starting to give under the weight of its own problems, a process the United States helped speed along. Washington set off an arms race in the early 1980s with its decision to take an active military position against the Soviets. Between 1980 and 1989, the United States nearly doubled its defense spending, armed mujahideen forces against the Soviets in Afghanistan and flaunted its advanced military capabilities by launching the Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars." The Soviets' efforts to keep up only exacerbated the pressures on their country.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin, addresses on June 12, 1987 the people of West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate, near the Berlin wall. (MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images)

Mikhail Gorbachev tried to stave off the Soviet Union's demise when he came to power in 1985 by bringing a younger generation of leaders to the Kremlin and introducing a series of liberal political and economic reforms. Gorbachev permitted the countries of the Eastern Bloc to establish independent political systems and struck an arms control agreement with the United States. But the measures were not enough to save the Soviet Union; the seeds of dissolution had already been sown. Just a few days shy of its 69th anniversary, the Soviet Union dissolved, ending the Cold War without so much as a bang. Instead, the Kremlin quietly lowered the Soviet flag — the symbol of one of history's most formidable forces. 

In the Wake of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union's collapse was hailed in the West as a victory for the United States and its allies, proof that the American system and its governing ideology were morally, ethically and technically superior. Perhaps the clearest illustration of Western views toward the end of the Cold War was the Berlin Freedom Concert, which commemorated the opening of the border between East and West Germany in 1989. Televised in more than 20 countries around the world, the concert brought orchestral musicians from both sides of the Berlin Wall together to play Beethoven's 9th Symphony. But instead of "ode to joy," the choir sang "ode to freedom." As the West saw it, the end of the German Democratic Republic represented a triumph for freedom, and the demise of the Soviet Union liberated the world from the so-called Evil Empire.

Without an equal adversary, the United States became a global hegemon, just as the Soviets had feared, and the Western institutional, economic and democratic models spread across many parts of the world. But the fall of the Soviet Union yielded some more unexpected outcomes as well. Despite the proxy wars that had raged throughout the Cold War, the U.S.-Soviet dichotomy kept other conflicts in check. In the waning years of the Soviet Union and for decades after its collapse, wars broke out across the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and the former Soviet states. Many of these conflicts tested the United States' hegemony. Furthermore, the end of the Cold War facilitated the rise of regional powers such as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Germany and France — some of which diverge from the United States' worldview. Alternative regional coalitions formed or expanded in the wake of the binary alliance system that the Cold War had built, creating competition for the United States.

Though the Soviet Union's dissolution seemed to suggest that Moscow could never again challenge Washington, Russia eventually regained its footing. Now, the Russian Federation is following the same strategy, however flawed, that its Soviet and imperial forerunners pursued. Much as it did in previous eras, Moscow is once again resorting to authoritarian and expansionist tactics to overcome its inherent fragility — this time under the guise of a democratic system and a market-driven (albeit state-influenced) economy. This resurgence has in some ways echoed the rise of the Soviet Union, but having learned from its mistakes, Moscow will not attempt to match the Soviets' global reach. Nonetheless, Russia's comeback has proved that 25 years after the Cold War's end, a stable world order is as elusive as ever.
209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Are Israeli settlements the problem? on: December 25, 2016, 09:57:47 AM
https://www.facebook.com/prageru/videos/957648907611299/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Read: What Russia is to US on: December 25, 2016, 09:51:50 AM
http://amgreatness.com/2016/12/24/russia-what-is-it-to-us/
 
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Trick plays; Miracle plays on: December 25, 2016, 09:25:40 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj8G9dGuNkU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3szbprD3vI
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Pope on: December 25, 2016, 09:11:38 AM
Please post that here  http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1094.0 and I will modify the name of the thread suitably.

213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia using domestic groups to unsettle Europe; Russia-Estonia on: December 25, 2016, 09:08:59 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/24/world/europe/intent-on-unsettling-eu-russia-taps-foot-soldiers-from-the-fringe.html?emc=edit_th_20161225&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/world/europe/estonia-juri-ratas-center-party.html

214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: Private Equity Water on: December 25, 2016, 12:06:50 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/24/business/dealbook/private-equity-water.html?emc=edit_ta_20161224&nlid=49641193&ref=cta&_r=0
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Awesome photos on: December 25, 2016, 12:00:47 AM
https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2016/12/2016-hubble-space-telescope-advent-calendar/509306/?utm_source=nl-atlantic-daily-121916&utm_source=nl-atlantic-daily-122016
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dershowitz: Trump was right to try to stop Obama on: December 24, 2016, 11:53:20 PM
http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Dershowitz-Trump-was-right-to-try-to-stop-Obama-476402
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Tillerson story on: December 24, 2016, 09:37:54 PM
http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2016/12/23/learned-exxon-ceo-rex-tillerson-spending-week-jury-duty
218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dems, progressives, Left subvert democracy on: December 24, 2016, 08:23:56 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/443195/electoral-college-2016-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-democrats-leftists-subvert?utm_source=nr&utm_campaign=leftists&utm_medium=satemail&utm_content=murdock&utm_term=VDHM
219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCarthy: Baraq betrays Israel on: December 24, 2016, 08:20:55 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/443327/united-nations-israel-settlements-resolution-barack-obama-betrayal-israel

220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: Aleppo and American Decline on: December 24, 2016, 08:11:37 PM
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/aleppo-and-american-decline/2016/12/22/1c025a5a-c877-11e6-85b5-76616a33048d_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-c%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.ddf23712408d
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama shafts Israel on: December 24, 2016, 07:59:26 PM
http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/obama-shafts-israel-article-1.2921949
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton, and Glick on the UN Resolution on: December 24, 2016, 04:55:44 PM
http://video.foxnews.com/v/5260207465001/?#sp=show-clips

As Ambassador Bolton said in the clip below from Fox News, Obama killed the peace process by pushing this anti-Semitic, evil resolution. He killed the peace process and all prospects for peace by destroying the foundation of the process. That foundation was "land for peace."

Land for peace formed the basis of UN Security Council resolution 242 from the end of the 1967 Six Day War. It stipulated that in exchange for Arab recognition of Israel and peace with the Jewish state, Israel would cede some of the land that it took control over during the course of that war.

But Friday's resolution says that Israel has no right to any of the land, that the presence of Israelis in that land -- yes, including the Western Wall -- is illegal. So Israel has no land to give and the Arabs will give no peace. And that is that.

The other thing the resolution does is annul all the bilateral agreements that Israel signed with the PLO, which formed the basis of their peace process. Those agreements were all witnessed by the US, the EU and Russia. And those agreements committed the sides to the bilateral framework for resolving their conflict.

In signing the agreements, the Palestinians committed themselves to not going to the UN or any other international body to coerce a settlement with Israel. Their UN strategy is a material breach of the agreements they signed.

Friday's resolution makes zero mention of any of those agreements. In pretended they don't exist. And in so doing, it killed them. They are dead.

For 23 years, confined by the Oslo framework, Israel was wary of taking the unilateral step of applying its law to all or parts of Judea and Samaria just as it was wary of building new Jewish communities in the areas. But now that those agreements are dead, Israel has no such limitations on its actions. It can act unilaterally just as it did in the past.

To be clear, this resolution is terrible for Israel. But it is mainly terrible for Jews in the West, and particularly in America.

Some argue that the resolution increases the threat that the International Criminal Court will try Israeli leaders or even private citizens. But this argument makes no sense. Israel is not a signatory to the ICC convention. It has no jurisdiction over us.

The greatest victims of this resolution are not Israeli Jews, they are the Jews of the Diaspora, and particularly Jews in the West. Harassment of Jews in the US, Canada and Europe by Muslim thugs and their useful leftist idiots both on and off campus will rise as a result of this resolution.

There is an ironic silver lining to this resolution for Israel.
First, there is the obvious silver lining which is that we don't need to lie about Obama anymore. He revealed himself in his final month as the Jew hating, Israel hating bastard we have always known him to be but our leaders, out of fear that he would act as he did on Friday felt compelled to pretend that the man who gave the bomb to Iran is a friend of ours.

Second, and more importantly, there is the irony of the consequences of the resolution.

By joining the UN gang rape of Israel in an act of diplomatic terrorism against the Jewish people and the Jewish state, Obama destroyed not only all prospects for peace. He destroyed all prospects for Palestinian state.

He destroyed all prospects for Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines. He destroyed all prospect of any Israeli withdrawal at all.

And he even managed to weaken the UN which will now faces a massive cut in funding from the Trump White House and the Republican controlled Congress.

The news of this resolution hit us like a brick wall. It hurts to see a room full of well dressed, well schooled, supposedly cultured and caring people acting like a lynch mob of Cossacks setting fire to synagogues and attacking Jewish villagers with pitchforks. It is nauseating beyond measure to watch Samantha Power, who branded herself as "Miss Genocide," as in, the redhead who fights for the powerless, standing with murderers against innocent, law abiding, human rights respecting, good Jews.

But we've been through much worse and survived and prospered. Samantha Power won't even merit a footnote in history, except in the section on the greatest hypocrites in the early 21st century.

Obama will go on to become Jimmy Carter on steroids. He will be relentless, and powerful. But we will survive him as well.

And John Kerry will remembered first and foremost for betraying the men that served with him in Vietnam. All the treacheries he committed since, including this one, were preordained the moment he stepped out of the crowd and libeled his brothers in arms.

With G-d's help, we Jews will survive and thrive and move on from strength to strength, as our forefathers did, as we have always done.

223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Excellent piece on Obama, Israel, and the UN resolution. on: December 24, 2016, 12:00:33 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/443327/united-nations-israel-settlements-resolution-barack-obama-betrayal-israel
224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Do what we say on: December 23, 2016, 11:47:14 PM
https://www.policyed.org/intellections/no-empty-threats/video?utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=intellections&utm_content=foreign-policy-empty-threats&utm_medium=paid
225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama's Tantrum on: December 23, 2016, 11:34:33 PM
The decision by the United States to abstain from a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel over its settlements on the West Bank is one of the most significant, defining moments of the Obama Presidency.

It defines this President’s extraordinary ability to transform matters of public policy into personal pique at adversaries. And it defines the reality of the international left’s implacable opposition to the Israeli state.

Earlier in the week, Egypt withdrew the Security Council resolution under pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President-elect Donald Trump also intervened, speaking with Egypt’s government and, via Twitter, urging Mr. Obama to block the resolution, as have past U.S. Administrations and Mr. Obama himself in 2011.

As was widely reported Friday after the U.N. vote, the White House decided to abstain—thereby allowing the pro-Palestinian resolution to pass—in retaliation against the intervention by Messrs. Netanyahu and Trump.

Mr. Obama’s animus toward Prime Minister Netanyahu is well known. Apparently Mr. Obama took it as an affront that the President-elect would express an opinion about this week’s U.N. resolution.

It is important, though, to see this U.S. abstention as more significant than merely Mr. Obama’s petulance. What it reveals clearly is the Obama Administration’s animus against the state of Israel itself. No longer needing Jewish votes, Mr. Obama was free, finally, to punish the Jewish state in a way no previous President has done.

No effort to rescind the resolution, which calls the settlements a violation of “international law,” will succeed because of Russia’s and China’s vetoes.

Instead, the resolution will live on as Barack Obama’s cat’s paw, offering support in every European capital, international institution and U.S. university campus to bully Israel with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer implored the Administration to veto the resolution, noting rightly that it represents nothing more than the “Zionism is racism” bias at the U.N. Let Senator Schumer note the true nature of his party’s left wing.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the Administration’s action “shameful.” Senator Lindsey Graham said he will form a bipartisan coalition to suspend or reduce U.S. financial support for the U.N. That should proceed.

For Donald Trump, meet your State Department. This is what State’s permanent bureaucrats believe, this is what they want, and Barack Obama delivered it to them.

Tweets won’t change this now-inbred hostility to America’s oldest democratic ally in the Middle East. Mr. Obama’s pique, however, has made it crystal clear to the new Administration where the lines in the sand are drawn.
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS burns two Turkish soldiers to death on: December 23, 2016, 05:56:22 PM
https://www.facebook.com/afghandispatch/videos/577821109074163/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED

VERY GRAPHIC angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Drought ending?; more water for farmers on: December 23, 2016, 12:47:18 PM
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-winter-storms-la-nina-20161222-story.html?utm_source=Today%27s+Headlines&utm_campaign=c6792684fc-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_12_12&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b04355194f-c6792684fc-80108809

http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/state-water-project-allocation-boosted-to-45-percent/
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: Israel and the Rising New West on: December 23, 2016, 11:54:07 AM
http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Column-One-Israel-and-the-rising-new-West-476279
229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NRO: Abolish the EPA on: December 23, 2016, 11:50:39 AM


http://www.nationalreview.com/article/443186/scott-pruitt-abolish-epa

Many interesting points in here but the "abolish the EPA" notion is political suicide.
230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq scraps entry-exit system for migrants from Muslim countries. on: December 22, 2016, 10:51:07 PM
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/12/22/obama-administration-scraps-entry-exit-tracking-system-for-migrants-from-muslim-countries/
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way forward for Republican party on: December 22, 2016, 08:44:13 PM
Agreed and agreed.  At the same time, I do like the way he paints Latinos:

"documents a growing segment of the U.S. population that is better educated, more employed, more entrepreneurial and more engaged than many understand"

232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: December 22, 2016, 08:40:03 PM
Thank you Doug.
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cheney helping Tillerson on: December 22, 2016, 08:39:08 PM
https://theintellectualist.co/dick-cheney-emerging-as-key-adviser-to-trump-administration/
234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Donald Trump on: December 22, 2016, 02:35:48 PM
We search for Truth around here, no matter where it may lead.
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trujillo: Trump and the Latinos on: December 22, 2016, 02:34:54 PM

By Sol Trujillo
Dec. 21, 2016 6:31 p.m. ET
97 COMMENTS

When President Ronald Reagan nominated Lauro Cavazos in 1988 as the first Latino to serve in a presidential cabinet, he made history.

Today, President-elect Donald Trump is on the verge of making history too. With 16 cabinet-level officials and more than two dozen administration appointments announced, he is on track to appoint the first cabinet without a Latino in more than 28 years. For a president-elect who ran on restoring economic growth, ignoring U.S. Latinos makes little sense. Latinos are driving American economic growth, and they are at the core of what I call America’s New Mainstream Economy.

I encourage Mr. Trump and his advisers to read a new report by economist Jeffrey Eisenach, “Making America Rich Again: The Latino Effect on Economic Growth.” The study shatters myths associated with the U.S. Latino community and documents a growing segment of the U.S. population that is better educated, more employed, more entrepreneurial and more engaged than many understand.
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Most Americans know that the Latino population in the U.S. is growing fast, but what is less understood is that it has become a major source of entrepreneurs. Latino youth—the workforce of the future—are graduating at higher rates and are more connected online than other segments of the population. The overwhelming majority speak English and were born in the U.S.

Consider these findings in Mr. Eisenach’s study:

• Latinos are driving new business creation. The number of Latino-owned business grew 46% from 2007 to 2012, compared with a decline of more than 2% for non-Latino businesses. There are now more than four million Latino-owned business in the U.S. If not for Latinos, the U.S. would have fewer businesses today than it did in 2007.

• Those businesses are hiring. Head count in Latino-owned businesses increased 22% from 2007 to 2012, against a 2% drop in hiring over the same period for non-Latino businesses.

• Latino incomes are rising fast. Latinos were responsible for 29% of real income growth in the U.S. from 2005 to 2015, with the number of Latino households earning incomes of more than $150,000 growing 194%.

Those numbers are real, and they are unambiguous. Latinos are driving job growth, income growth and new business formation. According to Mr. Eisenach’s report, if U.S. Latino consumers were a country, they would represent the world’s 14th largest economy and that economy would be growing faster than India’s or China’s. That is one important part of the New Mainstream Economy story.

The story gets even better. Today with more than 56 million living in the U.S., Latinos comprise some 17% of the nation’s population. But the median age for Latinos is 28 years old—nine years younger than the overall U.S. population—and Latinos are increasingly well-educated. The share of Latino high-school seniors enrolling in college immediately following graduation jumped 20 percentage points in the 12 years from 2000 to 2012—to 69% from 49%. This now outpaces enrollment rates of white (67%) and black (63%) non-Hispanic high school graduates.

Latinos are also early adopters of that other great driver of U.S. economic growth—technology. Latinos are more likely to use cellphones and smartphones than the general population, just as they are more likely to use online shopping tools and be early adopters of new technology. Latino-driven economic growth is a reality today that will be even more powerful tomorrow.

I am a lifelong businessman. I have run global, large-cap companies, and I have run startups. In all those roles, my instinct has been to look for growth opportunities and to seize them. The New Mainstream Economy represents America’s growth opportunity—and the Latino community is at its core.

The Trump administration must understand this economic reality if it is going to succeed in restoring the kind of growth that will bring prosperity to all Americans. Less regulation and lower taxes are effective recipes for a stronger growth climate for U.S. corporations and for small- and medium-size businesses. Improved access to capital for small- and medium-size businesses is also paramount. Diversity of experience and perspective is always a strength both for a business and for a nation-state.

Those who have been appointed or who will be nominated should seek advice, counsel and information regarding this New Mainstream Economy from those who live it. There are many influential, experienced and knowledgeable Latinos who can offer such advice.

The president-elect prides himself on being a winner and a builder. If he wants to build a winning economy, he cannot simply replicate successful pro-business strategies of the past. He must boost the powerful engines of today’s New Mainstream Economy—a task that requires tapping the expertise of the Latino community.

Mr. Trujillo is chairman of Trujillo Group Investments and former CEO of U.S. West, Orange and Telstra. 
236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Killer Clintons? on: December 22, 2016, 02:02:36 PM
These might have been posted a few months ago, posting now just to make sure

http://dennismichaellynch.com/bernie-sanders-supporter-who-served-dnc-legal-papers-found-dead/

http://dennismichaellynch.com/dc-conspiracy-death2/

http://dennismichaellynch.com/highlight-one/former-u-n-official-dies-before-testifying-in-bribe-scandal-with-clinton-donor/
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lincoln on: December 22, 2016, 02:00:52 PM
It's freakin' American poetry by a man who read Shakespeare and spoke like a frontiersman.

While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came. 2

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." 3
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Like • Reply • 13 hrs

 
Stephen W. Browne The first inaugural address is Machiavellian in its reasoning. It simultaneously attempts to reassure - and warn the South of the consequences of breaking the Union. A comparison between the two would seem to indicate a strong cynicism in Lincoln, but I think there's something more.

Lincoln is our "Second Founder" in Francis Bacon's term. A man who after the Founders completed the shaping of America. An ambiguous blessing to be sure. He ended an odious violation of human rights, and created dangerous precedents doing so.
Tough shit. Life is like that.

Like • Reply • 13 hrs
 
Stephen W. Browne BTW for more about Founders, Second Founders, and the Progressives who envy the Founders, see:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nqk7_e5Pv4c
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Progressive State Depression on: December 22, 2016, 12:42:50 PM
•   The Progressive-State Depression
<StephenMoore.gif>
Stephen Moore
|
Posted: Dec 06, 2016 12:01 AM

 
 
The blue states of America are in a depression. I don't mean the collective funk of liberal voters because they lost the election to Donald Trump.

I'm talking about an economic malaise in the blue states that went for Hillary Clinton. Here is an amazing statistic courtesy of the just-released 2016 edition of "Rich States, Poor States," which I co-authored with Reagan economist Arthur Laffer and economist Jonathan Williams: Of the 10 blue states that Democrats won by the largest percentage margins -- California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Connecticut -- every single one of them lost domestic migration (excluding immigration) between 2004 and 2014. Nearly 2.75 million more Americans left California and New York than entered these states.

They are the loser states. They are all progressive: high taxes rates; high welfare benefits; heavy regulation; environmental extremism; high minimum wages. Most outlaw energy drilling. The whole left-wing playbook is on display in the Clinton states. And people are leaving in droves. Day after day, they are being bled to death. So much for liberalism creating a worker's paradise.

Now let's look at the 10 states that had the largest percentage vote for Trump. Every one of them -- Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Dakota and Idaho -- was a net population gainer.

This is part and parcel of one of the greatest internal migration waves in American history, as blue states, especially in the Northeast, are getting clobbered by their low-tax, smaller-government rivals in the South and the mountain regions.

 
 
By the way, pretty much the same pattern holds true for jobs. The job gains in the red states that Trump carried by the widest margins had about twice the job-creation rate as the bluest states carried by Clinton.

The latest "Rich States, Poor States" report, published by the American Legislative Exchange Council, shows a persistent trend of Americans moving from blue to red states. The best example is that from 2004-2014, the two most populous conservative states -- Florida and Texas -- gained almost 1 million new residents each. The two most populous liberal states -- California and New York -- saw an equal-sized exodus.

It's easy to understand why people might want to leave gray and rusting New York. But California? California has, arguably, the most beautiful weather, mountains and beaches in the country, and yet people keep fleeing the state that is supposed to be a progressive utopia.

What doesn't make California and New York paradise is the high cost of living -- thanks to expensive environmental regulations, forced union policies and income tax rates that are the highest in the nation, at 13 percent or more. Florida and Texas are right-to-work states with no income tax. Is it really a shocker that people would choose zero income tax over 13 percent? New York politicians know that their record-high tax rates are killing growth, which is why the state is spending millions of dollars on TV ads across the country trying to convince people that New York has low taxes. Sure. And Chicago is crime-free.

Even when it comes to income inequality, blue states fare worse than red states. According to a 2016 report by the Economic Policy Institute, three of the states with the largest gaps between rich and poor are those progressive icons New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Sure, Boston, Manhattan and Silicon Valley are booming as the rich prosper. But outside these areas are deep pockets of poverty and wage stagnation.

The lesson to be learned from the experimentation of the states is that the "progressive" tax and spend agenda leads to much slower growth and benefits the rich and politically well-connected at the expense of everyone else.

Trump is now promising that on a national scale, he will cut taxes, deregulate and cut wasteful government spending. In the presidential debates, Clinton disparaged this agenda as "trumped up, trickle-down economics," and she said it had never worked.

Yet prospering red states such as Florida, Tennessee, Texas and so many others keep stealing jobs and growth from blue-state America.
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: December 22, 2016, 12:30:40 PM
Real GDP Growth in Q3 was Revised to a 3.5% Annual Rate To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 12/22/2016

Real GDP growth in Q3 was revised to a 3.5% annual rate from a prior estimate of 3.2%, beating the consensus expected 3.3%.

The upward revision was due to stronger business investment and personal consumption. Other categories were either unchanged or changed only slightly.

The largest positive contribution to the real GDP growth rate in Q3 came from consumer spending. The weakest component of real GDP was residential investment.

The GDP price index was unrevised at a 1.4% annualized rate of change. Nominal GDP growth – real GDP plus inflation – was revised up to a 5.0% annual rate versus a prior estimate of 4.6%. Nominal GDP is up 2.9% versus a year ago and up at a 3.1% annual rate in the past two years.

Implications: Today's final GDP report for the third quarter showed real economic growth at a 3.5% annual rate, slightly better than consensus expectations, and the fastest growth in two years. The upward revisions were due to business investment and personal consumption, which means the "mix" of growth was favorable for the year ahead. Although corporate profits were revised down slightly, they were still up 5.8% in Q3 and up 2.1% from a year ago. The lull in profits over the past year and a half has been an energy story. But as energy prices are well off their lows from earlier this year, we expect higher profits in the quarters to come. Meanwhile, plugging the new profits data into our capitalized profits model suggests US equities remain cheap, not only at today's interest rates but even using a 10-year Treasury yield in the 3.5% - 4% range. In terms of monetary policy, the Fed should see today's report as a confirmation that they made the right decision to raise short-term rates last week. Nominal GDP growth (real growth plus inflation) was revised to 5% annual rate in Q3 from a prior estimate of 4.6%. Nominal GDP is up 2.9% in the past year and up at a 3.1% annual rate in the past two years, leaving the Fed plenty of room for rate hikes in 2017. Monetary policy will not be restrictive until the federal funds rate is moved close to nominal GDP growth. That's still a long way off. In other news today, the FHFA index, which measures prices for homes financed with conforming mortgages, increased 0.4% in October. In the past year, these home prices are up 6.2% versus a 6.0% increase in the year ending in October 2015. Look for continued gains in home prices in the year ahead, as jobs keep expanding, wage growth accelerates, and any headwind created by an increase in mortgage rates is offset by expectations of faster future economic growth.

240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Snopes does porn on: December 22, 2016, 09:36:17 AM
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4042194/Facebook-fact-checker-arbitrate-fake-news-accused-defrauding-website-pay-prostitutes-staff-includes-escort-porn-star-Vice-Vixen-domme.html
241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Russian Revolution should be mourned, not celebrated on: December 22, 2016, 09:33:50 AM
http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/12/the-centenary-of-the-russian-revolution-should-be-mourned-not-celebrated/
242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sen. Alexander for Nuclear Power on: December 22, 2016, 09:30:08 AM
If 20 fire marshals came around and told us our houses were about to burn down, we’d buy some fire insurance. So when the leading science academies in 20 developed countries, along with several major American corporations and the national security community, all tell us that burning fossil fuels is causing dangerous changes to the climate, we think it’s time for the United States to get serious about clean energy. It also means supporting safely operating nuclear power plants that produce carbon-free electricity.

Already, 60 percent of our carbon-free electricity comes from the 99 nuclear reactors that dot the nation’s map, from Avila Beach, Calif., to Seabrook, N.H. These reactors provide low-cost, reliable electricity for the United States, which uses nearly 20 percent of the world’s electricity. But over the next decade, at least eight of these reactors are scheduled to shut down. That will push up carbon emissions from the American electricity sector by nearly 3 percent, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.

In California, the closing of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2012 contributed to a 24 percent increase in carbon emissions from the electricity sector, according to data from the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board. Carbon emissions from the electricity sector in New England rose 5 percent in 2015, the first year-to-year increase since 2010, largely because of the closing of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in December 2014, according to ISO New England, the region’s grid operator.

In roughly two decades, the United States could lose about half its reactors. That’s because, by 2038, 50 reactors will be at least 60 years old, and will face having to close, representing nearly half of the nuclear generating capacity in the United States. Without them, or enough new reactors to replace them, it will be much harder to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.
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Unfortunately, some of our federal policies to encourage clean energy, such as the Clean Energy Incentive Program within President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, do not explicitly include or incentivize nuclear power. Likewise, some states have chosen to adopt policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, that do not include or incentivize nuclear power.
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At the same time, our energy markets do not currently account for the value of carbon-free power, a failure that puts nuclear power at an unfair and economically inefficient disadvantage to fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

We come from different political parties, but we agree on the overall goal of leveling the playing field for nuclear power, and the need to find a bipartisan solution to achieve it. This matters because the investments we make today, in new plants and transmission infrastructure, will be around for decades. Every time new fossil energy replaces nuclear, we’re locking ourselves in to a more carbon-heavy energy mix for years to come.

Some states and utilities are working to reduce carbon emissions with the understanding that nuclear power can be part of the solution. In the Southeast, there are four new reactors under construction that will provide 4,470 megawatts of carbon-free electricity — enough for 3.3 million homes. New York established a clean-energy standard in August that might help the state’s reactors stay open, including one that had been announced as closing. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office explained that “maintaining zero-emission nuclear power is a critical element to achieving New York’s ambitious climate goals.” And the private sector is pitching in, too: According to Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz, there are dozens of entrepreneurs focusing on ways to improve and expand the nuclear power industry.

The federal government should support these efforts.

For one thing, we should extend existing reactor licenses from 60 to 80 years, in cases where the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it is safe to do so.

We should also invest more in research to develop advanced nuclear reactors, including small modular reactors and accident-tolerant fuels. Advanced reactor designs may substantially reduce the threat of a meltdown. Many new, modular designs are much smaller than their predecessors, meaning they can be built in factories at lower cost and plugged into the grid as needed.

Some of these new reactor technologies could actually use waste from traditional reactors as fuel, helping to alleviate a major challenge facing the industry. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing framework, developed to support the last generation of reactors, should be updated to encourage and promote new investment in the next wave of advanced nuclear technology. And finally, we need to resolve the stalemate over where to store used nuclear reactor fuel.

If we want to clean the air and reduce carbon emissions to deal with climate change, we need a stronger, not weaker, nuclear energy sector. Congress, federal agencies and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must work with utilities to preserve our existing reactors in the safest possible way, and to develop the next generation of reactors that will provide cheaper, reliable, carbon-free electricity.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is a Democrat from Rhode Island.
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PotH calls for Bi-partisan investigation on: December 22, 2016, 09:28:26 AM
President-elect Donald Trump will assume office next month dogged by the question of whether a covert ploy by the Russian government had a decisive effect on his election.

While a conclusive answer is likely to remain elusive, American voters deserve as many details as can be ascertained about Russia’s role in the campaign, to better protect the political process from similar interference in the future. The assessment by American intelligence agencies that the Russian government stole and leaked Clinton campaign emails has been accepted across the political spectrum, with the notable exception of Mr. Trump.

The House speaker, Paul Ryan, called Russian meddling “unacceptable,” and said that under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow “has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests.” Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said in a recent interview that the fact that the “Russians were messing around in our election” is a “matter of genuine concern.”

Addressing the issue properly will require a bipartisan congressional investigation led by people with the authority and intent to get to the truth, however disturbing that might be for the incoming administration and the Republican Party. The intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian hacking was meant to help elect Mr. Trump.

Mr. McConnell and Mr. Ryan have both called for a congressional inquiry, but they want it handled by the permanent standing committees, a bad idea for practical and political reasons. A far better approach would be to establish a select committee, with both House and Senate members, that would examine the Russian hacking across many areas of expertise. Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado, all Republicans, argue that a select committee is necessary for an investigation as complex and politically delicate as this one. So does Senator Chuck Schumer, soon to be the Senate minority leader.

Cybersecurity threats cut across the jurisdictional lines of permanent congressional committees. Such threats have been examined by at least 19 standing committees in the House and Senate, including those that focus on the work of intelligence agencies, homeland security programs and military operations. If Mr. McConnell’s approach prevails, several House and Senate committees are likely to do overlapping work. Because those investigations would be run by lawmakers with varying degrees of loyalty to the White House, their disparate conclusions would probably be seen through a political lens.

A bipartisan select committee with subpoena power could examine the Russian hack in a comprehensive, dispassionate manner, with an eye to shielding its conclusions from charges of partisanship.

“This cannot become a partisan issue,” Mr. McCain, Mr. Graham and Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “The stakes are too high for our country.”

Mr. Trump, who broke with Republican Party orthodoxy by striking an admiring tone toward Moscow during the campaign, has rejected reports of Russian meddling as “ridiculous,” even though in July he called on the Russians to find and leak more Clinton emails. Unless Mr. Trump’s team actually colluded with the Russian government, it would be in his interest to support congressional Republicans in seeking an independent, comprehensive investigation. Any other position would suggest that he has something to hide or simply doesn’t care about the integrity of America’s elections.
244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CALPERS lowers projected returns on: December 22, 2016, 09:25:59 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/business/dealbook/california-calpers-pension-fund-investment.html?emc=edit_th_20161222&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CALPERS lowers projected returns on: December 22, 2016, 09:25:27 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/business/dealbook/california-calpers-pension-fund-investment.html?emc=edit_th_20161222&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: A Do it yourself Tack on Security on: December 22, 2016, 09:23:25 AM
At the Southern Border, a
Do-It-Yourself Tack on Security

By FERNANDA SANTOSDEC. 21, 2016
Photo
Members of the Arizona Border Recon, on the move in Arizona in November. The group is a paramilitary organization performing reconnaissance operations along the border with Mexico. Credit Johnny Milano

His radio crackled. “Can you hear it?” a veteran Army soldier named Tim Foley asked one weekend afternoon while traversing the remote trails off the remote community of Sasabe, a dot along a busy drug-smuggling corridor in southern Arizona.

“They’re pushing something through,” he said. “And they’re not too far.”

When the housing market collapsed and Mr. Foley, 57, lost his construction job and then his home, he moved to Sasabe, on the United States-Mexico border, to start his own citizens’ border patrol. Mr. Foley prefers to call his group, Arizona Border Recon, a nongovernmental organization, but others label it a militia and scoff at the notion of private individuals, many of them armed, patrolling the border.

Photo
The border fence in Nogales, Ariz., patrolled and monitored by United States Customs and Border Inspection. Credit Johnny Milano

That Sunday, Mr. Foley was out trying to decipher the traffickers’ scrambled communications his portable radio had intercepted. He held a .40-caliber pistol in hand and his dog, a Pitbull named Rocko, by its leash. Those were his two weapons.


Photo
A Border Patrol agent patting down a migrant who wandered into the Arizona Border Recon camp in November. Credit Johnny Milano


Mr. Foley argues that there is a war going on at the southern border, even though the number of apprehensions has declined precipitously — to about 409,000 in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 from 1.2 million in the 2005 fiscal year. He served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division before he went to work in construction, where he came away believing that the rules of employment and immigration were broken.

Photo
Jeremy Wood, a veteran and Arizona Border Recon member, resting in March after spending most of the previous 24 hours on watch for scouts, migrants and cartel groups. Credit Johnny Milano

“The illegals,” he said, “had fake IDs, fake Social Security cards.” One week, they would be gone after being flagged in the federal electronic system that employers use to check employees’ legal status. “The next week, the same guys would show up with another fake ID, another fake Social Security card.”


Photo
Chris Maloof, a member of the Arizona Border Recon, hiked along mountain trails in August, intent on cutting off paths used by migrants and drug couriers. Credit Johnny Milano

The Border Patrol operates according to a “shift mentality,” their responsibilities limited by time and distance, he said. Many agents are assigned to the station in Tucson, more than an hour away. “When they’re coming down,” Mr. Foley said, “they’re being reactive” to an image on a video camera or a ground sensor set off by someone where no one should be.

“They’re already behind,” he said. “What we do is try to be proactive.”

He lives in Sasabe; many of the members of Arizona Border Recon live there or nearby. “Because we live out here, we do this 24/7,” he said.

Mr. Foley runs background checks on volunteers and verifies their military records, but there is no government or public oversight over who joins this group or any of the militia organizations operating on America’s southern border.  Most of the group’s members are either veterans or retired law enforcement officers. They are volunteers who have been trained to read the signs that migrants leave in the wild — a snapped twig, for instance, or the characteristic print of a piece of carpet glued to the bottom of a migrant’s shoe to complicate tracking efforts.

Border Patrol agents “actually like us,” Mr. Foley said. “We have so much intel of what’s happening and where it’s happening.”

The group’s mission, as explained on its website, “is not to overthrow any government, or take the law into our own hands.” It is to serve as another set of eyes and ears where eyes and ears are so few.

Photo
Blaine Cooper, a figure in the militia standoff in Oregon early in 2016, seen here lacing up his boots at the Arizona Border Recon’s forward operating base in October 2014. Credit Johnny Milano

Mr. Foley said he and the other volunteers had given water, food and blankets to thirsty, hungry and cold migrants whom they have found lost and disoriented in the desert, abandoned by the smugglers who brought them across. Then they turn the migrants over to the Border Patrol.


Photo
Members of the Arizona Border Recon scanning the terrain for migrant activity in November. Credit Johnny Milano

“We stay on the mountains seven to 10 days,” Mr. Foley said. “We sleep where we can, when we can, and we stay focused.”

Mr. Foley is known to others in his group as “Nailer,” a nod to his former life as a carpenter.

“Because people think we’re militia, they think we’re running around pointing weapons at people, shooting at people,” he said. “Six years and we’ve never fired a shot.”
247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Unusual warmth in Arctic on: December 22, 2016, 09:14:22 AM
A spate of extreme warmth in the Arctic over the past two months has startled scientists, who warn that the high temperatures may lead to record-low ice coverage next summer and even more warming in a region that is already among the hardest hit by climate change.

In mid-November, parts of the Arctic were more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than observed averages, scientists said, and at the pole itself, mean temperatures for the month were 23 degrees above normal. Although conditions later cooled somewhat, the extreme warmth is expected to return, with temperatures forecast to be as much as 27 degrees above normal beginning Thursday.

Jeremy Mathis, who directs the Arctic Research Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the warmth had led to a later than usual “freeze-up” of ice in the Arctic Ocean. That in turn may lead to record-low ice coverage in the spring and summer, which could lead to more warming because there will be less ice to reflect the sun’s rays and more darker, exposed ocean to absorb them.

“We’re going to be watching the summer of 2017 very closely,” Dr. Mathis said in an interview.

On Wednesday, researchers released a study linking the abnormally high Arctic temperatures to human-caused climate change. Using simulations of the climate, both current and before widespread carbon emissions, they found that the likelihood of extreme temperatures like those that occurred this fall had increased to about once every 50 years from about once every 1,000 years.
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“A warm episode like the one we are currently observing is still a rare event in today’s climate,” said one of the researchers, Friederike E.L. Otto, a senior scientist at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford in Britain. “But it would have been an extremely unlikely event without anthropogenic climate change.”

What’s more, Dr. Otto said, if climate change continues at its current pace, spates of extreme Arctic warmth may become common, on the order of once every two years.

“It’s quite impressive how much the risk of these kinds of events is changing,” she said. “It’s one region where we see the impacts of climate change very strongly.”

Walt Meier, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said that the current warmth had been brought on by fluctuations in the jet stream, which have allowed frigid air to make its way south into North America and warm air into parts of the Arctic.

While such outbreaks of extreme warmth are not new, he said, there are many signs that climate change is making them more frequent. “We’re loading the dice to make this more likely,” he said.
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While the earth over all has been warming — 2015 set a record for warmth, and 2016 is expected to exceed it — the Arctic has been warming at least twice as fast as the global average. In part, scientists say, that is because of declines in sea ice coverage. Ice typically reflects from about half to 70 percent of the solar energy that hits it, but water reflects only 6 percent, and so the water warms up. That melts more ice, which in turn leads to more exposed ocean and still more melting — what’s known as a positive feedback loop.

The recent high temperatures have had a severe impact on Arctic sea ice formation this fall. Ice coverage was the lowest for any November since satellite records began in 1979, NOAA said. Sea ice is also getting thinner on average, as thicker, multiyear ice melts and is replaced by ice that lasts only a year.

Temperatures this fall were so far off the charts that NOAA took the unusual step of extending the time frame for its annual “Arctic report card” by a few days into early December. “Because we have seen such amazing trends in the last few months, we did an addendum,” Dr. Mathis said.

The report, which includes findings from NOAA-sponsored research projects involving more than 60 scientists, was released last week at a scientific meeting in San Francisco. At a news conference, Dr. Mathis said that in addition to the extreme warm periods, the overall year was the warmest on record.

“We’ve seen a year in 2016 in the Arctic like we’ve never seen before,” he said.

While some of the warming is attributable to the effects of El Niño, which affected weather patterns worldwide last year, those effects are on top of what is already a clear warming trend.

The NOAA review also showed that the Greenland ice sheet continued to lose mass from melting, as it has every year since 2002, when satellites began measurements. Melting began earlier this year than any previous year except 2012.

At the news conference, Dr. Mathis noted that warming effects in the Arctic have had a cascading effect through the environment, “including down into Arctic ecosystems.”

He said that communities that rely on hunting and fishing for their food security “should be very concerned.”

“It’s getting harder and harder for them to harvest resources as the ice pulls back further and further away from the coast,” he said.

But Dr. Mathis added that changing conditions in the far north should concern everyone. “We need people to know and understand that the Arctic is going to have an impact on their lives no matter where they live.”
248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Tillerson and Igor I. Sechin, the head of Rosneft, on: December 22, 2016, 09:09:51 AM
MOSCOW — It’s June 2014. War is underway in eastern Ukraine, and Russia has recently annexed Crimea. Western countries are introducing sanctions against Russian companies and the people in President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle. It seems that Russia will soon be completely isolated from the rest of the world.

But the 21st World Petroleum Congress is taking place in Moscow. The atmosphere at the Crocus Expo International Exhibition Center, where the congress is being held, is decidedly nonconfrontational. On a stage, two men in suits hold an amicable conversation, addressing each other as “my friend.” The men are captains of the global petroleum industry: Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, and Igor I. Sechin, the head of Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, and one of Mr. Putin’s longtime allies.

Russians rejoiced earlier this month when President-elect Donald J. Trump announced that he would nominate Mr. Tillerson as his secretary of state. If he is confirmed, it will not just be the Kremlin that benefits, but Mr. Tillerson’s “friend” Mr. Sechin in particular.

The agency Mr. Tillerson has been nominated to lead is known in Russia as “GosDep.” The word, which translates to something like “StateDep,” entered the Russian language long ago, an abbreviation in the Soviet tradition of shortening long titles for government departments. But it’s more than just a clever nickname: GosDep is a term from Russia’s internal politics, one that evokes the Kremlin’s eternal enemy.
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The Putin era has unfolded to the accompaniment of anti-authoritarian revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East: From Ukraine to Libya, and from Serbia to Tunisia, seemingly stable governments collapsed before Mr. Putin’s eyes. Among the Russian elite, a consensus formed long ago that the people of those countries were, of course, supported by outside forces; revolutions are planned in GosDep.

For more than 15 years, the Kremlin has wondered: Would Russia be GosDep’s next target? Russian pro-government activists and news media made note of any contact between Russian opposition figures and the United States Embassy in Moscow. Government officials and Kremlin-controlled news media often claimed that the West was behind any anti-Putin protests. Hillary Clinton, the former head of GosDep, was blamed for demonstrations against the rigged parliamentary elections of 2011.

But what would happen if a friend of the Kremlin were to become the leader of GosDep? The person best able to answer this question is the man who has cut deals with Mr. Tillerson and appeared onstage with him at the World Petroleum Congress in June 2014.
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Mr. Sechin is not just the chief executive of Rosneft, he is also one of the heroes of contemporary Russian politics. He is believed to have served as a K.G.B. agent in Africa and had no real experience in the business world until he was over 40. He didn’t come to lead the state oil company because of his business acumen; he earned his position through his loyalty to Mr. Putin.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr. Sechin aligned himself with Mr. Putin, another former K.G.B. officer, as he began consolidating power in post-Soviet politics. Everywhere Mr. Putin went, Mr. Sechin was by his side as a trusted aide and adviser.

In 2003, Russian authorities arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the owner of Yukos, a huge oil company. At the time, Mr. Sechin was working as Mr. Putin’s deputy chief of staff, and though he had no formal judicial or investigatory authority, Mr. Khodorkovsky accused him of initiating his arrest — and the campaign that followed to nationalize Yukos. It’s impossible to know, but it seems likely. Following Mr. Khodorkovsky’s arrest, Rosneft absorbed Yukos’s assets. In 2004, Mr. Sechin was appointed to head Rosneft’s board.

Mr. Sechin isn’t just a businessman, though. He’s an influential political figure and a crucial Putin ally who has demonstrated his power. The arrest last month of Aleksei Ulyukayev, the minister of economic development, on charges of bribery was widely viewed as an act of revenge by Mr. Sechin. With the arrest, the first of an active government minister in post-Soviet Russia, he again confirmed his image as the most sinister man in the president’s inner circle.

Earlier this year, Mr. Sechin’s expansion was so aggressive that it seemed plausible that Mr. Putin himself would get tired of him, and would try to rid himself of such an odious comrade in arms.

Now Mr. Sechin has nothing to fear. A gift has arrived from across the ocean. This man, whose international experience up to this point has been limited to his friendship with Hugo Chávez, the deceased president of Venezuela, has an exclusive international trump card that even Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov lacks.

Mr. Sechin’s friend will head GosDep, against which Mr. Putin’s entire domestic policy has been directed. It’s a stunning boon for the Kremlin and a crushing blow to everyone in Russia who has counted on the State Department to maintain anti-Putin positions, however restrained they might be.

Even for Mr. Putin, the good fortune that Mr. Trump’s election has brought is less obvious than what it has done for the man who has been first his aide and then his deputy on matters of petroleum — a man who has suddenly become an influential player not only in Russia, but also in world politics.

Oleg Kashin is the author of “Fardwor, Russia! A Fantastical Tale of Life Under Putin.” This essay was translated by Carol Apollonio from the Russian.
249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Not so efficient Germans on: December 22, 2016, 09:05:54 AM
NRO:

Heck of a Job, Germany.

Just what does a guy have to do to get deported by Germany?

The prime suspect sought in the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market — a 24-year-old Tunisian migrant — was the subject of a terrorism probe in Germany earlier this year and was not deported even though his asylum bid was rejected, a senior German official said Wednesday.

The suspect — who went by numerous aliases but was identified by German authorities as Anis Amri — became the subject of a national manhunt after investigators discovered a wallet with his identity documents in the truck used in Monday’s attack that left 12 dead, two law enforcement officials told The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, a clearer portrait took shape of the suspect, including accusations that he had contact with a prominent Islamic State recruiter in Germany.

The Daily Mail reports, “He was put on a danger list shortly after arriving in Germany in June last year, which meant authorities considered him prone to extreme violence. Yet just how much surveillance he was under remains unclear.” Wait, somebody can be on a “danger list, prone to extreme violence” and not under surveillance?

The Wall Street Journal paints a thoroughly unnerving and depressing portrait of Germany internal counter-terrorism operations:
Successive mishaps in a separate case suggest the flaws in Germany’s antiterror effort run through the entire length of its security apparatus, from its long underfunded domestic intelligence to its police work and prison system.

In October, a police SWAT team stormed a flat in the eastern German city of Chemnitz in search of Jaber Albakr, a man suspected of planning a suicide bomb attack on a Berlin airport. He managed to flee on foot, partly because the officers’ tactical equipment was too heavy for them to catch up, security officials said at the time. Inside the flat, officers discovered large quantities of homemade TATP explosive.

Mr. Albakr was later caught in Leipzig—not by police but by Syrian refugees who restrained him and handed him over. Once he was detained, the Leipzig prison staff couldn’t immediately locate an interpreter to question him. When the prison’s psychologist finally interviewed him, she decided Mr. Albakr wasn’t a suicide risk. Two days after he was detained, Mr. Albakr’s lifeless body was found hanged in his cell.

Compared with France and the U.S., Germany is newer to facing the terror threat, a U.S. official said, adding more needs to be done in the country to overcome privacy concerns and allow deeper coordination among authorities on cases of interest.
250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hate crime hoaxes on: December 22, 2016, 07:41:29 AM
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/12/21/growing-list-post-election-hate-crimes-turn-out-to-be-hoaxes.html
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